JUL 17, 2019 6:32 PM PDT

Are Calluses Good for Your Feet?

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Sandal season brings with it the expectation of perfectly manicured feet. According to Foot Palace Athens, humans go to extraordinary lengths to remove foot calluses, from pumice stones and shaving devices to chemical peel treatments. But, have you ever wondered why our feet develop calluses or how shoes compare to their evolutionary purpose?

Calluses—the evolutionary solution to foot protection—are thickened and hardened areas of the foot’s epidermis. Shoes are a relatively new invention. They were not thickly cushioned nor widely available to the general population due to expense until the Industrial Revolution. Until then, most humans walked barefoot or wore non-cushioned sandals or moccasins. 

Modern footwear is undoubtedly a successful and useful invention. However, scientists were curious if humans’ natural adaptation of calluses differs than shoes in tactile sensitivity, or as Kristiaan D’Aout defines it in Nature, “the sensation of the ground beneath our feet.” Preserving tactile sensitivity of feet is essential to athletes such as gymnasts; those with illnesses that impact their balance; or older people whose balance and vision are in decline. Certain diseases, such as diabetes or other medical conditions which may cause low circulation and nerve damage, can also decline foot sensitivity.

Which is better at sensing and improving contact on slippery, abrasive, uncomfortable or harmful surfaces—shoes or calluses? The research team measured calluses (using ultrasound) of 100 adults from Kenya and the United States. Those that reported normally walking barefoot had calluses that were 30% thicker than those who reported wearing shoes most often. 

Through a series of tests on foot mechanoreceptors and the forces caused by walking, the researchers discovered that calluses protect your feet while walking, without disrupting your ability to feel the ground. Cushioned shoes provide more protection but compromise your sense of connection to the ground. Also, cushioned shoes deliver more force to other joints, such as the knee. Co-author Daniel Lieberman told Healthday reporters, “the load is basically delivered to the knees,” and that it is worth investigating if modern footwear is contributing to knee or other joint arthritis.

The authors are careful to mention that they are not promoting barefoot living, especially for those with medical conditions which require specific foot protection. Lieberman stated, “I’m not anti-shoe, and I’m not telling people to run around barefoot.” He simply wants humans to reconsider our views on unsightly calluses.

Sources: Nature, Nature (2), Healthday
 

About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
JAN 03, 2023
Health & Medicine
Physical Activity Reduces Depression in Children and Adolescents
Physical Activity Reduces Depression in Children and Adolescents
Physical activity interventions may help alleviate depression in children and adolescents. The corresponding systematic ...
JAN 05, 2023
Cannabis Sciences
The New Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act
The New Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act
New legislation is going to open up opportunities to research cannabis and its potential health benefits. Here are the d ...
JAN 04, 2023
Plants & Animals
Certain fermented foods could help prevent bad breath
Certain fermented foods could help prevent bad breath
Waking up with bad breath is always a buzz kill. But what happens when bad breath persists, despite your every effort to ...
JAN 12, 2023
Cell & Molecular Biology
Clumpy RNA Can Cause Major Problems for Cells
Clumpy RNA Can Cause Major Problems for Cells
The nucleotide bases of our DNA are read in triplets, and three nucleotides together, called a codon, represents an amin ...
JAN 17, 2023
Cardiology
More Walking Leads to Lower Cardiovascular Risk
More Walking Leads to Lower Cardiovascular Risk
For older adults, taking more steps every day decreases the risk of developing heart disease.
JAN 19, 2023
Drug Discovery & Development
Newest Treatment for Rosacea: Encapsulated Benzoyl Peroxide Cream
Newest Treatment for Rosacea: Encapsulated Benzoyl Peroxide Cream
Rosacea is a dermatologic condition affecting the centrofacial region (cheeks, chin, nose, and forehead), resulting ...
Loading Comments...